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Human rights group accuses Guatemalan courts of delays
Court News | 2017/11/07 13:16
An international human rights group says Guatemalan courts are foot- dragging on high-profile cases and threatening the work of the country's prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Human Rights Watch analyzed eight major cases that have bogged down and concluded the courts are undermining the anticorruption work by taking too long to process appeals and pretrial motions. In a report released Sunday, the group accuses the courts of trying to run out the clock on prosecutions by keeping defendants from ever making it to trial.

Among the cases is a customs fraud scandal that allegedly sent kickbacks to then President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. They resigned and were jailed to await trial, but more than 100 defense filings have delayed the trial.

Perez Molina and Baldetti, who resigned in 2015, both deny the charges against them.

Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch, said Guatemala has made progress on holding officials accountable for abuses of power, but still needs to "move forward and close those circles with trials." "The strategic defense (of those accused) was always to delay the cases," Wilkinson said.

The report notes a pattern in which pretrial proceedings drag on as defense lawyers appeal court decisions and file petitions seeking the recusal of judges.

"The repeated filing of such petitions has brought many key prosecutions to a standstill, and lawyers are not effectively sanctioned even when filing petitions that are manifestly frivolous," Wilkinson said.


Florida man back at Supreme Court with 1st Amendment case
Court Watch | 2017/11/05 13:15

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a Florida man who previously won a landmark ruling from the justices on whether his floating home was a house, not a boat subject to easier government seizure under laws that govern ships and boats.

This time, the justices agreed to hear a case in which Fane Lozman sued after being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at a public meeting.

Lozman, 56, was never brought to trial on the charges — prosecutors dropped them after concluding there was no possibility of a conviction. Lozman then sued Riviera Beach, claiming his arrest at a 2006 city council meeting violated the First Amendment's free speech guarantee because it was in retaliation for opposing a marina redevelopment plan and accusing council members of corruption.

A jury sided with the city after a trial and an appeals court upheld that verdict. Lozman, however, took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that U.S. appeals courts across the country are split on the issue of retaliatory arrest versus free speech.



Top German court strengthens intersex identity rights
Court Watch | 2017/11/02 13:15
Germany’s highest court has decided that people must be allowed to be entered in official records as neither male nor female, saying in a ruling published Wednesday that authorities should create a third identity or scrap gender entries altogether.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on a case in which a plaintiff, identified by advocacy group Dritte Option only as Vanja, born in 1989, sought to have their entry in the birth register changed from “female” to “inter/diverse” or “diverse.”

Officials rejected the application on the grounds that the law only allows for children to be registered as male or female, or for the gender to be left blank.

The plaintiff argued that that was a violation of their personal rights. In a three-year legal battle, Vanja provided courts with a genetic analysis showing the plaintiff has one X chromosome but no second sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome.

The supreme court found that the law protects sexual identity, which has a “key position” in how individuals perceive themselves and are perceived by others. It said that “the sexual identity of those people who can be assigned neither to the male nor the female sex is also protected,” and said the constitution also protects them against discrimination because of their gender. The government has until the end of 2018 to draw up new rules.


Brazilian court revives case against Olympian Ryan Lochte
Court Watch | 2017/10/30 01:03
Over the summer, it appeared Ryan Lochte had been cleared of criminal charges in Brazil after he was accused of fabricating a story about getting robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics. On Friday, a decision made by an appeals court that originally ruled the case should be dismissed was reversed, according to USA Today, which cited Brazilian newspaper O Globo. The ruling came after Rio's prosecutor's office filed its own appeal.

"I'm disappointed that they're trying to take another shot at it," Lochte's attorney Jeff Ostrow told USA Today. "I think they should just let it die because they lost and because he didn't do anything wrong. But for whatever reason, they want to try to save face and continue this charade, let them do what they gotta do and we'll continue to fight it because we believe we're right."

Ostrow said he will now attempt to halt further proceedings by filing his own legal motion. If the case continues, Lochte could once again be facing a sentence of one to six months in jail should he be convicted of a misdemeanor offense of fabrication, although he would be unlikely to serve it. The reason, according to CNBC, is that Lochte would need to be extradited to Brazil, which would require U.S. cooperation. Under agreed upon terms with Brazil, extradition only applies in the case of more serious offenses, such as murder or rape.

Lochte's alleged offense was making up a tale inspired by a confrontation between him and three other U.S. swimmers and security at a gas station. After the incident, Lochte embarked on a media tour telling the world he was robbed at gunpoint by criminals posing as Rio police. With Rio authorities trying to downplay the city's crime rate, however, Lochte's allegations sparked an investigation. Eventually security camera footage revealed Lochte's story was untrue.


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